DENTON — No passing lane was safe Tuesday night for the Allen girls basketball team.
Denton Guyer had everything to do with that, defending every last inch of its home court and pressuring the Lady Eagle ball-handlers into a myriad of miscues in a rematch between the state-ranked district rivals.
Whereas the first round narrowly favored on Allen back on Jan. 2 in a 64-62 victory, Guyer’s response was emphatic — turning a nip-and-tuck first half into an authoritative final two quarters for a 65-42 victory that pulled the Lady Wildcats (9-1) ahead of the Lady Eagles by a half-game (8-1) in the District 5-6A title race.
The uphill climb began early for Allen, committing 10 turnovers in the first quarter alone against a Guyer press that was locked in from the opening tip. Compounding matters was the absence of senior point guard and Butler commit Zoe Jackson, who was sidelined with a finger injury.
“Right now, we don’t have Zoe. We had some kids step into different roles tonight that they weren’t prepared for, and that’s on us,” said Teresa Durham, Allen head coach. “We just didn’t make good decisions tonight.”
With the Lady Eagles’ lead ball-handler and playmaker resigned to cheering from the bench on Tuesday, Allen’s backcourt had its hands full against Guyer’s aggressive defense. The Lady Wildcats totaled 17 steals in the win and baited the Lady Eagles into numerous other miscues — early in the second quarter, Guyer’s press forced back-to-back 10-second violations as Allen failed to get the ball across halfcourt.
“We just had too many turnovers — I’m not sure I could even count that high in my head,” Durham said. “We’re a much better team than this. This wasn’t our best effort tonight.”
Although the turnover column weighed heavily in favor of the Lady Wildcats, Allen found itself down just 28-22 at halftime. Despite their issues moving the ball, the Lady Eagles’ transition defense managed to limit the damage on the other end. Seniors Mackenzie Wurm and Laura Nosakhare-Bello altered a number of shots in the paint to help keep Allen within striking distance.
Wurm scored all eight of her points in the first half, and senior Cierra Trigg was in attack mode early — scoring 10 points with eight makes coming at the free throw line.
But as Guyer’s pressure didn’t relent in the second half, the Lady Wildcats at last cracked Allen’s defense with a 37-20 advantage over the final two quarters. Guyer’s half-court offense began to hum from the perimeter and its defense kept Allen off the glass to pace an 18-6 advantage in the third quarter and blow the contest open for a 46-28 lead.
The Lady Wildcats’ one-two punch of Bella Earle and Evie Goetz fueled the charge, combining for 21 points in the second half and totaling just 10 through the first two quarters. Earle led all scorers with 17 points and Goetz added 14. Eryka Patton scored 10 and was a force on defense with seven steals, disrupting Allen from conjuring any response during Guyer’s second-half onslaught.
“We knew they were going to press, and who wouldn’t right now,” Durham said. “(Guyer head coach Aimee Kilgore) does a great job. They watched film and knew Zoe was out, so I would have done the exact same thing. They do such a great job at that.”
The loss curtailed Allen’s unblemished start to district play and marked just the team’s fourth loss of the season.
“We’re doing some really good things. Our outside shooting is coming around, our post play is good,” Durham said. “Tonight was just one of those nights — probably the worst we’ve played all season and in a pretty important game.”
Durham said that Jackson will be re-evaluated on Thursday. As Allen awaits her return, Durham is optimistic the Lady Eagles can right the ship for the district homestretch as a share of the district title still remains in play. They return to action at 7:30 p.m. Friday at home against McKinney.
“We need to have more of a sense of urgency in practice,” Durham said. “We’re better than this and we know it. We just made too many mistakes with finding the open girl and not finding the open girl. But we’ll learn from this tonight and have our game ready for McKinney on Friday.”